Sustainable fashion – what are the issues and what can we do?
Did you know:
- Every second, the equivalent of one garbage truck of textiles is landfilled or burned – three out of five items of clothing end up in incinerators or landfills within a year of being produced.
- Discarded clothing made of non-biodegradable fabrics can sit in landfills for up to 200 years.
- The dyeing and treatment of textiles causes 20% of industrial water pollution globally.
- Up to 20 – 35% of ocean microplastics are from synthetic clothing, and washing clothes releases half a million tonnes of plastic microfibres into the ocean every year, equivalent to more than 50 billion plastic bottles.
- It takes 2,700 litres of water to make one cotton shirt – enough water for one person to drink for 2 ½ years. Textile production uses 4% of global fresh water.
- Clothing accounts for a substantial share of global annual carbon emissions. Recent estimates vary between 4% and 8%.
The good news is, interest in sustainable fashion has been growing steadily, and consumers, producers and retailers are all looking to change the ways we engage with clothes and fashion. Below we highlight some recent activities, further information, and ways we can all get involved.
Schools and sustainable fashion – second hand photo shoot at Oxford University’s Natural History Museum
We are delighted to be working with Kim Polgreen, LCON member and sustainable fashion enthusiast, Oxfam, and teachers and students from three north Oxford schools, to raise awareness of sustainable fashion – through a sustainable fashion photo shoot at Oxford University’s Natural History Museum.
The pupils from the Cherwell School, Oxford High School and St. Clare’s set out to highlight the huge impact of fast fashion on the climate and environment – and the thrills of buying second-hand instead. They hope others will join them as they spread the message. Find out more about the background to the project here, and take a look at some of the photos from the sustainable fashion photo shoot here.
Sustainable Fashion webinar
In June 2020 we hosted a webinar on ‘Sustainable Fashion – the environmental impacts of the clothing sector and what we can do about it’. We heard from Kim Polgreen (Sustainability Educator) and Stephen Cawley (former Head of Sustainability at John Lewis). A recording of the webinar is available here and you can access the slides here: Kim Polgreen and Stephen Cawley. If you’re new to the topic, this is a great introduction.
We have summarised key messages from the webinar on this page including links to further information and resources.
What action can I take? Find out more in our guide on sustainable fashion
There was so much interest in the event and subsequent video that we decided in March 2021 to launch an information campaign on sustainable fashion, which over the months has developed into an online guide and resource bank.
Our guide looks at how we can all – as individuals and consumers, and as a community – make a difference. Much of this starts with being more conscious, taking the time to find things out and think about our decisions. We have covered a range of topics including local and virtual solutions, resources and shops in our community, as well as online platforms.
Find out more by clicking on the relevant link below.
- Sustainable Fashion #1 – buy less!
- Sustainable Fashion #2 – what to do with clothes you no longer want
- Sustainable Fashion #3 – Refresh your wardrobe: repair and upcycling
- Sustainable Fashion #4 – Shopping sustainably
Write to your favourite Oxford shops to demand better
And as part of 2021’s Great Big Green Week, we compiled a directory of Oxford shops that score poorly on sustainability and ethical ratings, together with contact details and a template email and social media message. Find out more here.